Archive for January, 2015

The Du Pont Washington Works is a major shipper on the Southside Industrial District. Rich Erwin explains how he made it.

The Du Pont Washington Works is a major shipper on the Southside Industrial District. Rich Erwin explains how he completed the multi-structure complex.

The Du Pont Washington Works plant anchors the East end of my HO switching layout, the Southside Industrial District. The facility is actually a collection of buildings with three spurs for rail traffic. Track #4 receives shipments of various chemicals in tanker cars and the odd load of coal in hoppers. Track #5 is for receiving other raw material and equipment in boxcars, flats, and gondolas. Track #6 is for shipping plastic pellets in covered hoppers.


I used a mock up process to determine the size, color and placement of the main elements of the chemical plant. After mocking up, it was time to create the main warehouse building near the front of the layout. After seeing the mock ups, I had decided that the gray building was just too large and would go with some the size of the blue building I had tried out. I also liked the color, so blue it was. The modern warehouse would be modelled to represent corrugated aluminum, so prevelent in today’s industrial parks.

Blue warehouse #6 anchors the scene, while building #4 can be seen in the background. The other two buildings are still mockups at this point.

Blue warehouse #6 anchors the scene, while building #4 can be seen in the background. The other two buildings are still mockups at this point.

Du Pont warehouse number 6 is constructed from a foam core shell. I really love working with foam core because it is light, strong, easy to work with and cheap. I basically made a box with not top or bottom out of the stuff. In the past I had used white Elmer’s glue, but on this one I used a glue gun and liked the results. I temporarily pin the walls I am joining with whatever is handy. Track nails work well. Then I run a bead from the glue gun on the inside corner join. The “glue” in a glue gun is basically heated up silicon. When it cools, it hardens and acts like an adhesive. It will cool and set faster (a couple of minutes) than white glue (several hours or overnight), so I quite like the glue gun. A coat of a bright, medium-hue blue finished the core of the structure.

Du Pont warehouse #6 was scratch built using corrugated sheet styrene over a foam core shell.

Du Pont warehouse #6 was scratch built using corrugated sheet styrene over a foam core shell.

I had planned the location of windows and doors on the front, and cut those out in advance. Once the box was assembled, I glued Evergreen corrugated siding to the sides of the front and long side facing the layout front. The other two sides would be hidden from view, so I did not add siding to them. The company I currently work for has a couple of similar buildings. I looked at them every day when I went to and from work to get the feel. They are really plain and reflect their function-over-form design priorities. Many are just large boxes of corrugated aluminum, which is what I wanted to model. I didn’t worry about too many details as far as the structure goes. The side and back walls have no windows or doors. The glazing and casting for the front entrance of the building came from my scrap box. The roof is card stock cut to fit with vents from Pikestuff.

All in all, I would say the building cost me about $10.00. The one thing that I find difficult in scratchbuilding is cutting the walls to the proper size. I just cannot cut as accurate by hand as a commercial casting. One alternative to scratch building this warehouse would be to bash some Pikestuff kits. What you spend in money you’ll save in time because you wont’ have to cut all the pieces to a custome size, though you’ll still need to do some work.


The front of the blue warehouse begins to get some details and weathering.

The front of the blue warehouse begins to get some details and weathering.

I finished off the area by adding piping made from a sprue from a previous kit. I got something that looked about the right size and painted it bright yellow. Yellow and blue are primary colors and by placing the pipe in front of the blue warehouse wall, the pipe stands out. I got a couple of brake wheels from old cheap railway cars, painted one white and one red and placed them above what appeared to be valves. I’m not exactly sure what the pipe does, but I think it looks pretty good.

A Little Help From My Friends

Next it was on to the background building that sits against the backdrop by track number 4. This spur forms a wedge with the layout edge, and models the lead to the storage of chemical cars (and the occasional coal hopper) to the complex. The administration building acts as a view block and this gives the impression that the tankers are going somewhere “over there” or “back there” which helps make the layout seem larger. The background building would represent the end of some type of manufacturing.

chem finish 02

The red manufacturing building will go in the empty space to the left of the repurposed tank car.

To get the right feel and size for this building, I also used mockups. After the warehouse #6 was in place, I quickly made three different buildings for this area – 2 paper, and another corrugated warehouse type building set on a concrete skirting about 10 feet high. Then I took to the internet and asked for opinions and comments on what I had done so far.

Some early trial runs at sizing the background factory.

Early trial runs at sizing and fitting factory #4.

The cardstock buildings were photo realistic with nice detail, but they just didn’t feel right for this location. The area is wedge shaped and I wanted something with a sawtooth to fill the space. The paper buildings were also smaller and just didn’t produce the mass I was looking for. By building my own, I could make it any size and fit the space better.

Agian, I made a shell of foam core and glued corrugated styrene sheet over it. I raised the sheet about 1 1/2 inches up from the bottom to make a simulated concrete skirting. This I painted an ivory beige color. The rest of the building was painted a bright red (another primary color) to offset the blue warehouse. More spues were painted silver and used as piping.

Du Pont building #4 as a saw tooth background building.

Du Pont building #4 as a saw tooth background building.

I created vents for the sides of both buildings of various sizes by rotating the corrugated sheet 90 degrees and gluing that on a slightly larger plain styrene base. These were then painted silver or gray and glued over the corrugated siding of the walls.

I removed the chemical storage tanks at the back by building #4 because of a lack of space. I wanted any extra space to go to the background structure. This decision was also a result of the mock ups. I did find space for an old railway tank car turned into a storage tank. In due time this will be weathered so the Shell logotype is not so obvious. A photo of a chemical plant in the corner completes the scene and adds to the illusion of the complex extending beyond the edge of the layout.

The final two structures are still in mockup form. The administration or business bulding is a Swift meat packing plant from (now) Alpine models painted gray. The sandstone receiving building is poster board glued over corrugated cardboard. These help me determine the size, color, and placement of the final structures which will have a better level of modelling and detailing.

The white tanks at the front of the complex are for storage of outbound plastic pellets. In reality, a manufacturer of pellets would most certainly have many more tanks for loading covered hoppers, but I have modelled two. The tanks are made from plastic contact solution containers. They are glued together and joined them at the top with a walkway. Handrails and other details will be added later.

Du Pont's white plastic pellet tanks in their alternate position.

Du Pont’s white plastic pellet tanks in their alternate position.

The pellet containers can be moved from their current positon to the “concrete” pad for an alternate arrangement. The concrete is poured plaster stained with an indian ink wash. This was originally the place for the gray building, but the mock up excercise showed this was a little cramped. I liked the broad view of a couple of colorful covered hoppers parked up against the deep blue of the warehouse. I can move the pellet tanks over to the concrete pad on a whim to give the complex a little different feel.


Signs are everywhere in the real world. Take a look around and see how many signs or advertisements you come across in you day to day lives. It’s like we humans wouldn’t be able to do anything without a sign to tell us what to do.

When I look at some of the urban modeling that inspires me, I find that the scenes have a lot of signs. The Southside Industrial District should be no different. Signage not only adds to realism, but can also help set the locale and era of a layout as well as literally spell out which industries are which or the function of certain elements that compose a scene.

For the chemical complex, I used the Du Pont logo to tie the buildings together and define the boundaries of the facility. Smaller signs are scattered throughout the scene and are typical of an industrial area. They identify buildings, convey general saftey information and identify places that might be dangerous.

Details, Details

Detailing comes next. I view detailing a model railroad the way a painter might consider a work of art in oils. I like to add details by applying them to a section in layers. A layer is completed before moving on. The layers are considered right from the beginning of building the pike through to the end. Actually it seems I never finish a scene, but keep tweaking it, changing, and making updates just as happens to any locale in real life. Here are what I consider to be the distict layers, in order from the first to the last:
1) benchwork and subroadbead (tabletop of plywood or foam)
2) roadbed, track, ballast, “classic” ground cover
3) backdrop including painted or photo scenes (my preference)
4) buildings, both foreground and background, city streets, small structures
5) detailing – signs, people, clutter, vehicles, etc.
6) weathering buildings, rolling stock,
7) more detailing

Right now on the Southside, I am working on layers 4 and 5, depending on the location within the layout.

chem finish 05

I find details add a level of completion to a scene, as well as bring it to life. There can be just a few small additions that can totally make or change the feel of a scene.

Woodland Scenics ground cover did a lot to tie the scene together. I added clumps around structures – the abondonded tanker car, the chain link fence, the guard house. I used the finest grade between the rails on track #4 to get just a touch of grass growing on the lightly used spur. Yes, urban areas do have trees and I placed a couple next to building number 4 to help with the transition to the background. I could probably add another, taller tree here as well. I placed another tree near the guard shed.

Figures give life to the scene.

Figures give life to the scene.

The lights are from Model Power and are place in sections of styrene tubing to lengthen them. I also placed one behind the guard house. A few vehicles and scale figures of people going about their work bring some life to the scene.

An etched brass chain link fence by Micro Engineering defines the edge of the Du Pont property. I bent the barbed wire to about 45 degrees with pliers and painted both sides with a dusting of red oxide primer. There was only enough fencing to span one half of the three places where the track enters the fence. The rest of these gates will need to be added later.

Grade crossing and guard shack at the deliveries entrance.

Grade crossing and guard shack at the deliveries entrance.

The main entrance to the facility contains a guard house, grade crossing, drop gate, and signage. The access road was built up to rail height using Sculptamold. I painted it with brown acrylic and then sanded it once completely set so freight cars could pass on the rails unobstructed.

I created the grade crossing by using half- height ties from Campbell Scale Models, circa 1979. First I “stained” them by rubbing on a brown acrylic paint with a rag. A couple of coats and wiping to get the effect I wanted. Then I glued them onto a piece of styrene of the correct size. This was then glued between the rails before ballasting. The guard house was a gift and originated as a European yard office from a shipping container. A Bachmann automated crossing gate was removed from its pre-fab base and added to the scene.

Moving On

chem finish 10`
The next natural steps will be to update the two remaining structures, weathering, and adding details. Track #5 still needs paving between the rails and the pavement could use some painted markings like lanes and edging. Tank piping and hand rails on the pellet tanks will need to be added. Pipes and more pipes, as well as general clutter. Finally, a few more signs will convey the importance of safety in the area and welcome guests to the Du Pont Washington Works plant.